Monday, January 31, 2005

The Nation Hearts Durbin

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin gets good reviews in the The Nation. As well he should. Durbin has emerged as a leading voice in a much needed opposition. To paraphrase Col. Kurtz in Apocolypse Now, if we had a full caucus of Senators like Durbin, our troubles here would be over very quickly.

You Have the Shutup

Some are concerned about a recent survey that shows, among other things, two-thirds of high schoolers interviewed have problems with the first amendment.
...when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three
high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only
half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without
government approval of stories.

While seemingly worrisome, I wonder how this compares to high school kids in the past. Is this a question that is tracked over time? It seems fairly basic, so I suspect it has been.

My only off-handed explanation for the results, other than we possibly have a growing population of young fascists, is perhaps it has to do with their life experience so far. All their lives their parents have "regulated" much of what they say, are allowed to watch on TV, read, etc. Maybe a little content regulation doesn't seem that outrageous to them. Just a theory. On the other hand, as I remember it, by high school I wanted my parents (or anyone else) to have little as little control over me and what I did as possible.

I wonder if there is a similar poll of say, 19-22 year olds.


Hah, a Springfield man gets his letter published in today's New York Times.

To the Editor:

"The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History" supports my
contention that the real divide in this country is not blue versus red, but blue
versus gray.

Larry A. Stevens
Springfield, Ill., Jan. 26, 2005

Actually, I met Larry a long, long time ago (he's a friend of a friend). I suspect his letter was longer (much longer) but, as editors will do, it was chopped down to size. The book in question is somewhat controversial and has sparked debates in the blogosphere, but I haven't read it so I won't comment.

Speaking of divides, I'm working on a post about Illinois and its divides. I probably won't post it for a day or two.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Keyes Hearts Illinois

He just won't leave us alone! Sneed thinks he's going to run for governor.

But Will It Sleep in Peoria?

I was watching the idiotic Kyra Phillips on CNN this afternoon introducing a story about Illinois serial killer Larry Bright. Leading into the report she said the killings happened even in "sleepy Peoria". Uhhhhh...hmmmm. OK, Peoria isn't huge, say, like Chicago or Atlanta (where Kyra is) but I'm not sure "sleepy" is exactly the right adjective either. A small rural community of 1,000 people might be called "sleepy", but an industrial river city of 112,000 (and a metro area of a quarter million)...not so "sleepy".

Friday Beer Blogging

Courtesy of the Kalamazoo Brewing Company

The Surly Bonds of Earth

It was 19 years ago today an event occurred shocking the country in a way not felt again until September 11, 2001. On January 28, 1986 a routine launch of the space shuttle Challenger ended in disaster when it exploded 73 seconds after lifting off, killing everyone on board.

If you weren't around that day, its hard to convey the sense of tragedy that swept the nation upon hearing (and seeing) the news. This feeling of loss is particularly hard to understand, or remember if you were around then, in light of 9/11 and yet another shuttle disaster. But at the time, it was a huge deal.

I felt it too. I was the News Director for a group of two radio stations (one AM and one FM) that day. I also did a morning talk show. At the time of the Challenger explosion I was doing the talk show; that day a live interview with a representative from the IRS (in preparation for tax season).

Not long into the interview we got an alert from CBS (we were an affiliate) that there was some breaking news. During a commercial break, we monitored the CBS News feed to see what the alert was about. We came in on coverage of the explosion and decided to dump my interview. I remember the IRS guy, who could also hear the CBS feed, looking at me with this horrified look on his face. I probably had the same look but I had to get to work.

We put the CBS coverage on live. I thanked the IRS man, showing him to the door, and assured him we would reschedule the interview.

With CBS covering the AM station, I now had to get on the FM station with the news. I grabbed what wire copy was available and went on the FM . It was so hard doing that. As a life long fan of the space program, I was shocked by what had happened and could hardly believe it.

Later that evening, I watched President Reagan deliver a speech designed to console the nation. I didn't like a lot of what Reagan stood for politically but he was a mater in front of the camera and I appreciated that. And in times of national tragedy, it is indeed a great quality for a national leader to have.

Now for the point of my post.

The speech Reagan gave that night is best remembered for this line:
"We will never forget them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
I think most people believe Reagan (or his speechwriter, Peggy Noonan in this case) came up with this from whole cloth. But even as he read it that night, I knew it wasn't his. It was very appropriate and delivered masterfully but it was borrowed material.

I recognized it because a version of it was inside the front cover of a book I had as a kid on military aircraft. It turns out it comes from a poem written by a Canadian fighter pilot during WWII.
Reagan was quoting `High Flight,' a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.
Here's the original poem:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,--and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless falls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blueI've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew--
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Church-Going Sponge

SpongeBob makes a spiritual connection. It's heart-warming to see how this church is tolerant enough to accept a sponge, a yellow one, and one so morally flawed.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I'm not going to even try to be witty here any more after being put to shame the hilarity of Fafblog! This guy lapses into streams of consciousness that suggests either chemical abuse or a bad blow to the head. Go there and scroll around.

For an appetizer, go here and here.

CD Baby!

I forget where I first heard of this site, it was somewhere on the blogosphere, but it really is fascinating for music fans. Its called CD Baby and is a great place just to explore. And you can buy CDs.

What amazes me is just how much new stuff is out there. Things I've never heard of. In fact, that's what CD Baby does best; it points you to items that may have received little notoriety but may be exactly what you are looking for.

For example, on the main page click on the Flavor link. The Flavor page lists all kinds of musical recommendations such as occasions, moods and even music for types of people (e.g. music for stoners, music to have sex by, break-up music).

One of the neatest features is the ability to search for artists that (allegedly) sound like other artists. For instance type in "Sting" and you get descriptions of hundreds of CDs that are supposed have a sound like Sting's. What a great way to pick up on new or unknown artists that you may have never heard of.

Even if you don't want to buy anything, this is a really fun site. Go play.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

God Bless 'Merca

This is awesome! Said like a true American on the back of his/her car. I can't understand why the world has problems with us when we have reasoned thinkers like this person.

Auction Missile Crisis

I'm just a sucker for eBay stories.

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- A British man trying to sell a deactivated
Soviet-era missile on eBay was forced to delete it after Web site staff
contacted him for breaching company rules.

But eBay told Richard Moore, from Cambridgeshire, to remove the missile
because he broke eBay regulations by listing it alongside its vehicle launcher,
which should have appeared as a separate item -- and not because it was a

The online auctioneer bans the sale of any ammunition, replica guns or
firearms on its sites.

Selling demilitarized missiles however is acceptable, an eBay spokesman

This version of the story has pictures.

And screw eBay, check this out if you want to buy big cool military stuff.

The Funnies


Bad Rice

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin was one of only 13 Senators to do the right thing and vote against Condi Rice for Secretary of State. Yes, she is smart and talented but she participated in misleading the nation into a disasterous war. There should be consequences. Unfortunately, in the end, there were none for her.


Yesterday, I posted a reminder that American troops are still dying in Iraq even if the main stream media finds it too boring to report on. The monthly total of dead was 47 at this time yesterday.

Today we find out a total of 37 more are dead. That number is sufficiently large to warrant something other than yawns from big media.

Moderately Objectionable

Moderate Republicans need not apply. This should come as no surprise, but Congressman Ray Lahood's gubernatorial trial balloon here in Illinois is being met with a hail of fire from pea shooters on the extreme right. This web site (or skip the intro and go here) has been set up to organize the opposition from within the Republican party.

The site lists a number of Lahood's sins against the rightwing. The first transgression listed is, gasp:

Attempted to abolish the Electoral College just in time for the 2000
election, which would have resulted in Al Gore being president today.

Good heavens! What if the man who got the most votes had actually been allowed to take office! Why does Lahood hate Democracy!

By the way, one of the site's recommended alternatives to the commie, treasonous Lahood is Congressman John Shimkus from the neighboring 19th Illinois district (Lahood's is the 18th district).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Peoria Hates Fags

I guess gay jokes are torture when you aren't gay. I wonder how bad it is if you are gay.

"MARQUETTE HEIGHTS - Several Marquette Heights residents no longer have to
worry about being harassed or laughed at when they tell people they live on Gay
Road. By a 4-1 vote Monday night, City Council members agreed to change the name to Hennepin Road.

The issue came to council after Blair Williams, who lives on the street,
sent a petition to his neighbors. Of the 10 households on the road, eight signed
the petition, said Darlene Elmore, a Gay Road resident.

Elmore, who's lived on Gay Road for 13 years, said she wanted the name
changed because of the taunting she and her children have endured."

Is There a Doctor in the House?

So, with all the Johnny Carson retrospectives over the last two days (and they were EVERYWHERE Monday night) where is Doc Severinsen? Jay Leno had Ed McMahon on his show last night and Doc's name never even came up. And everyone who even met Johnny was being interviewed somewhere. So where's Doc?

Like I said, the TV memorials to Carson were unavoidable last night. Leno actually even did a good job. Too bad his regular show can't be that good. In fact, last night may have been the first time I watched Leno all the way through.

I was stuck by how really old everyone from the Carson era looks now. It was kind of sad to see the old clips showing how vital these people were back in the day. It just doesn't seem that long ago.

Flash Back

The Springfield State Journal-Register's staff of photographers has published its favorite photos from the past year. I like a lot of the photos, but I did notice there was a bit of a geriatric theme flowing through the collection. Not sure why that is.

If a Soldier Falls in the Desert and No One Hears It...

Quick, without looking, how many American service men and women have died in Iraq so far this month?

Based on the news I've seen and read in the main stream media, I'd say none. But I'd be wrong.

The answer is 47.

Of course there were also dozens and dozens of maimed and wounded Americans, 10 dead "coalition" troops, and who knows how many dead Iraqi troops police and civilians.

Speaking of civilians getting caught up in this mess, read this and weep.

Now THAT'S funny

From the let them eat cake dept:

Though there was no official poem for the occasion, impressionist Rich Little,
emceeing the Constitution Ball at the Hilton Washington, did provide a bit of
inaugural doggerel.

Little said he missed and adored the late
President Ronald Reagan and "I wish he was here tonight, but as a matter of fact
he is," and he proceeded to impersonate Reagan, saying, "You know, somebody
asked me, 'Do you think the war on poverty is over?' I said, 'Yes, the poor
lost.' " The crowd went wild.

Ha, ha, ha. It doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Brink Bluster

So, there I was listening to Bob Brinker in the car yesterday for a just few minutes. I try not to listen very long while driving since I might fall asleep at the wheel. Financial talk is a bit dull and since no one really can explain or predict economics, it's also kind of a waste of time.

Anyway, I'm listening and Brinker says something I found unusually arrogant (even for him). He says its a perfectly horrible, horrible I tell you, idea for employers to have 100% medical coverage for employees. Why? Is it because it would hurt the company bottom line? Nope. Because of all the paper work? Nope. The reason employers should not provide 100% medical coverage to employees as a benefit is because...the employees won't show the proper appreciation for it.

Bob says employees will simply take their expensive health care benefits for granted and not truly appreciate the great thing the company is doing for them. On the other hand, says Bob, if the employee has to pay some (25% is what Bob recommends) then he/she will feel the bite and be ever so grateful the employer is picking up three times the amount.

Now, I don't know of any employers who pay 100% of everything medical. I guess they exist since Bob knows everything (ask him) and Bob is upset about the practice. So upset he needs to get on national radio and condemn the practice. So for arguments sake, let's assume this self-destructive practice by some employers exists.

My question to Bob is, why does it matter if the employees show the "proper" appreciation to the employer? Is it supposed to foster loyalty? I tell you what, having 100% of my medical covered would generate a lot of loyalty from me. Bob seems to think workers can't do the math unless confronted with a bill.

Or is mister capitalist just demanding the proper respect for employers as a matter of power. Don't want workers to be too uppity now do we. Make them feel a little pain and they will keep coming back to bathe in the employers salvation. You see, worker-boy, the fact that your employer makes a profit off of your labor is not enough. You must also kiss his ass and ask how much more you can give.

Just another day in Bob's world.

Hey, God...Heeeeeere's Johnny

By now, everyone has heard Johnny Carson died Sunday at 79. Another cultural icon from by youth is now gone. But here's something you won't hear anyone saying today: Carson's shtick was kind of lame. At least I thought so after age 15 or so.

About the time I was 13 or 14 I was staying up most week nights and catching at least his monologue. This was cool because, a) I was finally able to stay up that late and, b) I finally "got" most of his jokes. But as I moved through my mid teens and was able to take in even more of the world and the comedy in it, well, Johnny really lost his edge in my eyes. And, for me, he never recovered.

Don't get me wrong, the man was clearly a pioneer in the world of entertainment. And what he did, hosting a late-night, fluffy talk show, he did well. The Tonight Show was a rock of stability that could always be counted on - it was a known quantity. It was not must-see but if you really needed something mildly entertaining later in the evening, Johnny was always there (or, in later years, one of his often more talented stand-ins). It became less of a stand-by for me as cable TV flourished and TV options expand but somehow it was comforting to know it was there when none of the other 50 channels had anything on.

By the 1980's, when I was in my 20s, I was sure Carson was the king of stale, lame comedy from another era. I always got the impression even he wasn't too sure what he was doing was all that good. He seemed to have this look on his face when doing his many characters that almost conveyed a sense of wonderment that anyone thought this was funny. But he still had a huge audience who wanted that known quantity.

And if you want to know what killed him, remember that smoke curling up from behind his desk when he would come back from the commercial breaks.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Beer Blogging!

And now for that special new Friday feature.

I've noticed several prominent bloggers like to use Fridays to interject a regular feature or change of pace. For a long time Kevin Drum (while he was still known as CalPundit) did what he called Cat Blogging where he featured photos of his cats. He gave that up but Atrios picked up the baton and Cat Blogs every Friday. Bob Harris Pudu Blogs (go look).

I could cat blog but my cat looks just like one of Atrios' cats. Then there is my poodle who only has two poses: sleeping and pooping on the carpet. And he looks like one of Atrios' cats.

Anyway, I want to continue the tradition. So, may I present to you, Friday Beer Blogging!

The image uploading thing is still kind of a problem for me (getting size, etc right) but I'm working on it.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

They Might Be Titans

Bob Harris has some unbelievable photos from the Huygens probe on Titan. I mean really unbelievable.

Mark Hyman Free Zone

On the local front...

Springfield television viewers will soon be able to get local news and not have to put up with Sinclair Broadcasting's propagandist-in-chief, Mark Hyman. Currently, the only TV news organization in town belongs to WICS Ch. 20 which is owned by the ultra-conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group. That monopoly is about to end. According to the Springfield Journal-Register:

Beginning in April, WCFN-TV, Springfield's UPN affiliate, will air a
half-hour local news broadcast at 9 p.m. each weekday. WCFN broadcasts on
Channel 49.


"Springfield viewers have asked for this, and asked us many, many times,"
said Russ Hamilton, vice president and general manager of WCFN and its sister
station WCIA, the Champaign-based CBS affiliate for the
Springfield-Decatur-Champaign television market. NexStar Broadcasting Group, in
Irving, Texas, owns both WCIA and WCFN.
Jim Gee, news director for WCFN and
WCIA, said WCFN's newscast will focus exclusively on Springfield and the
surrounding area. The station's nightly news will be compiled and reported by a
staff of full-time reporters and photographers...


No anchorperson has been named, but Gee said WCIA's chief weathercaster,
Judy Fraser, will deliver weather forecasts tailored to Springfield. Sports
content, also devoted to Springfield-area athletics, will see contributions from
WCIA sports anchor Jason Elliott.
WCFN's newscast will air at 9 p.m. because
that is when UPN's prime-time programming ends each evening.

The manager of Ch 20 then tells a lie:

WICS general manager Johnny Faith said he welcomes the competition.
"I'd like to wish them well," he said.

And that's not all. Apparently, WICS Ch. 20 and WAND Ch. 17 are switching affiliations:

Papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2004 by
Sinclair Broadcast Co., which owns WICS, have scheduled a switch of network
affiliations between WAND and WICS for September 2005.

When that happens, WAND will broadcast NBC network programming, and
WICS will switch to ABC.

I'm not sure what the switch is all about. I know it going to leave me confused for a while since Ch. 20 has been NBC for my entire life.

God Hates Fags, er, Sponges

Is there any doubt that homosexuals are the new communists? They're everywhere, I tell you! Subverting society from their secret cells hidden even in cartoons!

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 - On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex
marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their
attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of
Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for
members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election

SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among
children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure
among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick
Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of
Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.

"Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a
"pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television
colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the
video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote
a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family,"
said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding.

Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11
attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The
video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying
materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern
Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the
group's Web site.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association,
the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been
confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We
Are Family," which supports gay youth.

I think SpongeBob has also been seeing Tinky-Winky on the down-low. The horror.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Oval Office Space

Tom Tomorrow wonders why presidents don't have computers on their desks in the Oval Office. Even the smart presidents didn't.

Maybe it makes for bad photo ops. I'm not sure I've seen too many pictures of the presidents' desks with any clutter on it. Still, wouldn't it make presenting things to presidents easier if he had access to things online? How about email? To much of a security risk? Does the president have so much staff that he literally has to do nothing, even the smart ones? What about those presidents (the smart ones) who write some of their own speeches? Do they really use pad and paper still? Do CEOs of large corporations have computers on their desks?

It all seems odd to me, too.

It's the Bracelets, Stupid

As if to demonstrate how short a shelf life pop culture has, or how slow I am, events have already overtaken my Magnetic Ribbons post from yesterday. Apparently, bracelets are the new magnetic ribbons (which in turn were the new lapel ribbons - which are so 90's by now). I was vaguely aware of this trend but failed to comprehend its magnitude. Rich Roeper lays it out in his column today in the Chicago Sun Times. But I'm not getting too complacent:

Actually there is an end in sight. Someday in the not-too-distant future,
the Society of People Who Decide These Things will secretly declare an end to
the rubber bracelet trend. They'll quietly put their "LiveStrong" bracelets in a
drawer and replace them with . . . something else.

The rest of us, we'll catch on eventually. And one by one, we'll also
retire our wristbands.

Because the only thing we care about more than supporting a good cause
is to support our own coolness. Nobody wants to be the last person in the room
to know when the trend is over.

I Love the 00's! Don't wait to get nostalgic.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Now, this is a good personal blog. This guy is a student, single and I am assuming young. Therefore, he still has lots of time (even if he doesn't think so) and energy (ditto). This is what my blog would have looked like 20 years ago. Go look, but COME BACK.

Facing the Music

I just noticed that my banner claims that I will be discussing music on this blog. Well, since not one single post has had anything to do with music, I'd better get busy.

I'll start with a recommendation:

The Alternative
VH-1 Classic
Sunday, Wednesday & Thursday
10:00 pm - Midnight (Central Time)

VH-1 Classic generally plays older music videos from the 1960's through the 1980's and is one of several VH-1 specialty channels. Of course VH-1 itself is an offshoot of MTV. I get Classic on digital cable, and I'm not sure if its available on any satellite TV menus or not.

Anyway, VH-1 Classic has this show, The Alternative, that plays only videos from the punk, New Wave and alternative eras, roughly from 1977 to 1995. Its sort of a light, reflective version of MTV's old 120 Minutes show. The Sunday night time slot is even reminiscent. Good stuff.

I Heart the Magnetic Ribbon Industry

Get your opposition ribbons here.

Magnetic ribbons are going to be one of those cultural icons of the 00's. When "I love the 00's" premiers on VH-1 in about 10 years, count on a lot of snarky ribbon flashbacks.

By the way, is there any consensus on what this decade is to be called? Sure, in print I can get away with "00's", but how do you say it? The "Ohs"? The "Zeros"? The "Two-Thousands"? What?

Big-Ass Plane

Check out the new Airbus A380. Its huge (superjumbo, so says the article) and can hold 840 passengers. Be sure to scroll through the images.

Here's more.

The Gay Pill

What the hell? This is just weird.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. military rejected a 1994 proposal to
develop an "aphrodisiac" to spur homosexual activity among enemy troops but is
hard at work on other less-than-lethal weapons, defense officials said

The idea of fostering homosexuality among the enemy figured in a
declassified six-year, $7.5 million request from a laboratory at Wright
Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for funding of non-lethal chemical weapon

Fostering homosexuality? Umm...I don't think that's how it works.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Blog Recovery

As you can tell, I'm back to posting more regularly. I battled my cold only to a stalemate over the weekend, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I used my reserves to muster the strength to engage in a trivia match Saturday night. Our group wound up semi-victorious, coming in 10th out of 35. Perhaps if I have been up to full strength, we would have vanquished our opposition and taken the spoils of war (the 250 dollar prize).

Alright, I'll stop with the war metaphors already.

By the way, expect a major new TEH weekly feature beginning this Friday.

Persian Mug

A new article in the New Yorker by award winning investigative reporter Sy Hersh says Iran is next on the Bush administrations hit list. Hersh says the pentagon is drawing up plans for strikes on that country’s nuclear, chemical and missile industries. Plans are also being developed for a full-out military invasion according to Hersh. None of this is particularly surprising to me. However, I was struck by this:

The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily
derail, Iran’s ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. “Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement,” the consultant told me. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse”—like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said.
That’s just stupid. That’s the same simplistic, immature view of another nations politics we got when we were told the Iraqi’s would greet us a liberators, showering the troops with rose pedals while the woman ran up to kiss their heroes. Like something out of Paris 1944. (It’s been a contention of mine that the world view of most Neo-Cons, and indeed many Americans, is hopelessly warped by viewing everything trough WWII colored glasses –but that’s a discussion for another time).

Go read the whole thing.

Happy MLK Day!

Go here for more on how one political party is doing what it can to set the record straight on civil rights. Dr. King would be proud.

Selective Memory

Holy crap! The Selective Service remembers me. I was never in the military but I did register for the draft...a long time ago. 08/21/1980 to be exact, according to this SS site. In fact, I was among those who had to register when draft registration was reinstated back in 1980. You, too, can go to the SS web site, enter your last name, Social Security number and birth date to find out if you are registered.


One of my favorite Iraqi bloggers is an educated young woman who goes by Riverbend. I've been reading her posts since she began blogging some time after American troops entered Baghdad. She is a Baghdad resident and calls her blog Baghdad Burning. She reports on every day life in the Iraqi capital as well as interjects her rather pointed opinions. Her posts have become more sporadic lately which she blames the lack of consistent electricity and phone service.

Anyway, in one of her latest posts (from Saturday), she takes on the recent announcement that, gosh there were no WMDs after all:

Now we're being 'officially' told that the weapons never existed. After Iraq has been devastated, we're told it's a mistake. You look around Baghdad and it is heart-breaking. The streets are ravaged, the sky is a bizarre grayish-bluish color- a combination of smoke from fires and weapons and smog from cars and generators. There is an endless wall that seems to suddenly emerge in certain areas to protect the Green Zoners... There is common look to the people on the streets- under the masks of fear, anger and suspicion, there's also a haunting look of uncertainty and indecision. Where is the country going? How long will it take for things to even have some vague semblance of normality? When will we ever feel safe?

A question poses it self at this point- why don't they let the scientists go if the weapons don't exist? Why do they have Iraqi scientists like Huda Ammash, Rihab Taha and Amir Al Saadi still in prison? Perhaps they are waiting for those scientists to conveniently die in prison? That way- they won't be able to talk about the various torture techniques and interrogation tactics...

I hope Americans feel good about taking their war on terror to foreign soil. For bringing the terrorists to Iraq- Chalabi, Allawi, Zarqawi, the Hakeems. How is our current situation going to secure America? How is a complete generation that is growing up in fear and chaos going to view Americans ten years from now? Does anyone ask that? After September 11, because of what a few fanatics did, Americans decided to become infected with a collective case of xenophobia… Yet after all Iraqis have been through under the occupation, we're expected to be tolerant and grateful. Why? Because we get more wheat in our
She finishes the post ominously:

The weapons never existed. It's like having a loved one sentenced to death for a crime they didn't commit- having your country burned and bombed beyond recognition, almost. Then, after two years of grieving for the lost people, and mourning the lost sovereignty, we're told we were innocent of harboring those weapons. We were never a threat to America... Congratulations Bush- we are a threat now.
That sounds about right to me.

Titan Welcomes You

Late last week mankind took another giant leap when the Hugens probe landed on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. The few pictures I have seen so far are pretty cool. Looking at the pictures, Titan appears to be rocky and barren as expected. Still, just seeing the pictures makes it all a little more real. Amazing stuff.

TEH's senior Space correspondent, JRB, has provided us with some valuable and interesting links here, here and here. Take a look at the photos.


No matter what you think of the War in Iraq, it was a stupid decision to set up a base on top of a valuable archeological site.

LONDON -- US-led troops using the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon as a base
have damaged and contaminated artifacts dating back thousands of years in one of
the most important archeological sites in the world, the British Museum said

Military vehicles crushed a 2,600-year-old brick pavement, for example, and
archeological fragments, including broken bricks stamped by King Nebuchadnezzar
II around the same time, were scattered across the site, a museum report

The dragons at the Ishtar Gate were marred by cracks and gaps where
someone tried to remove their decorative bricks, the paper said.

John Curtis, keeper of the British Museum's Near East department, who
was invited by Iraqis to study the site, also found that large quantities of
sand mixed with archeological fragments have been taken from the site to fill
military sandbags.

We aren't winning any hearts and minds with stuff like this.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Now That's Politically Incorrect

Poor guy. He's being sent to Auschwitz for wearing an offensive costume. You'd think some Nazi once did something to the British.

One Thing Leads to Another

This story got my mind wondering back to the movie "Three Kings". If you haven't seen it, it stars George Clooney who leads a group of American soldiers on a gold heist into Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. It's a very good movie that, because it takes chances, sometimes falls down (the scene where they down a helicopter with an exploding football is one instance where I cringed). Made in 1999, long before our current involvement in Iraq, it conveys the dangers of unintended consequences when you start messing with complicated and unfamiliar cultures and their politics. Rent it some time, you won't be bored.

One other point of interest: If you go to the IMB page for this movie and look at the certifications section (where the ratings of various countries are listed), you'll see that while it got an R rating here, the movie was banned in Iraq. I assume this was pre-2003 invasion.

Blogger's Block

I have a cold and I think all my blogging ideas are getting stuck in my sinuses.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Orrin Watch

Mrs. Eleventh Hour doesn't much care for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. I'm not a big fan either. So as a shout-out to the much better half, here's a good Orrin bitch-slap posted by Kevin Drum.

What's in a Name?

I found myself in an email discussion with a couple of friends that, in part, involved a complaint that the main stream media doesn't (or didn't in the past) refer to those in opposition to the current Roe vs. Wade abortion laws as "Pro-Life". Without wading into the morass of the abortion issue as a whole, I'd like to examine the labeling of the two camps.

Here are the most common labels (there are others but they are almost always designed to bash the other side):

Pro-Life - this is what Roe v. Wade oponents like to call themselves.
Pro-Abortion - this is what Roe v. Wade opponents like to call their opponents
Pro-Choice - this is what those who favor Roe v. Wade like to call themselves
Anti-Choice - this is what those who favor Roe v. Wade like to call their opponents

This puts news organizations in a tough position since using any of the labels will offend one or the other side and likely result in calls of "media bias". I don't know what criteria media organizations use but here's my solution: label each faction by the name they prefer. In this case Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. This way each side is only half angry and only over what the other side is being labeled. Its not perfect but if everyone understands the rules, fewer feelings will be hurt.

Without going into too much detail, I think the battle of the labels is illustrative of how the two abortion issue factions are, in many ways, talking past each other while trying to define each side to fit their own views. Notice both sides want to be associated with the positive "Pro" label rather then the negative sounding "Anti" label. Distilling the sides down to a overly simple level, its my view that the Pro-Choice crowd sees life not necessarily beginning at conception and favoring the wishes of the mother over the fetus. While the Pro-Life side sees a human being after conception who's "rights" trump those of the mother. I know that's really simplistic but I only mean to make the point that these are divergent views that really aren't even on the same page.

On more note on the name game. I notice the term Pro-Life is misused by a lot of conservatives who are not Pro-Life but pro-unborn life (only). That is, they oppose abortion but can't wait to execute criminals, start wars, oppose life saving social services and even openly wish death on their political enemies.

And the Winner Is...

Paul Waldman gets my award for the snarkiest comment following the White House announcement that it is has given up the search for "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq:

"Now the hunt for Nicole's real killers can begin."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Furr Sure

OK, this is local.

There is a talk radio station here in Springfield, WMAY 970 AM, that is mostly local (non-syndicated, personalities in the studios here). One of their new personalities is a woman named Pamela Furr (profile here, scroll down). She is not from around here but was hired a couple of months ago to do the 9:00 am to Noon time slot. She's what the station calls "an open minded conservative" (hmmm...what are they saying about other conservatives). Anyway, so far so good. Here's my story:

I'm listening to the end of her show on my way home for lunch today. I came in on the middle of some conversation with a local woman she had in the studio and this woman was describing how her house in Pawnee (a small town a few miles south of Springfield) was damaged by a tornado at some point in the past. Miss Pam then says, "What's a Pawnee?". And she wasn't kidding, she didn't know. The woman guest explained to her that "a Pawnee" is a town.

Now, this stunned me. I know she isn't originally from here, but she has been here a couple of months doing a daily talk show AND local news! WTF? Everyone here knows someone from Pawnee. In her position she should know these things. She came off as the total fool she is.

Think I'm being too hard? Well, I've been in her situation. I once relocated to a city I was completely unfamiliar with to do radio news. And you know what, I knew every town for 60 miles, most of them before I got to my new job. C'mon Pam, get a clue.

Learning from THEIR Mistakes

It turns out, 20 years ago the British tried something similar to what's being proposed for Social Security reform here. It's been a dismal failure.

Credit Where Due

I live in Illinois' 18th Congressional district. It is represented in Congress by Rep. Ray LaHood, a moderate republican who has one of the safest seats in the country. I didn't vote for him but
I have to note he may wind up doing the right thing when it comes to Social Security "reform".

For President Bush to succeed in his drive to let workers put part of their
Social Security taxes in private investment accounts, he'll have to persuade
Republicans like Rep. Ray LaHood to vote for it, and that will take some

"It's a no-win for people in the House," the moderate, 10-year House
veteran from rural Illinois said recently. "We risk our political careers. We
risk 30-second ads against you saying, 'You voted to gut Social

The linked-to CNN story is several weeks old but I was not blogging when it first appeared. Granted, LaHood's comments seem to suggest his opposition is politically motivated but I am pleased he is not falling in lockstep with the White House on this issue.

Update: Lahood may run for Governor.

Weapons of Non-Existance

So we're not even bothering to pretend anymore.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

It's My Party and You'll Pay if I Want To

This is just wrong.
D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to
reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's
inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9
million from homeland security projects.

I don't like inaugurations, especially second term inaugurations. I know both parties do it and I think both parties should stop.

When in Rome...

Now even the Italians have enacted tough anti-smoking laws. Italy joins Ireland, Scotland, and Montenegro (!) as the first European countries to ban smoking in public places. Good for them. It's about time it happen here too.

I'd like to see a nationwide ban but it seems to be happening at the state and community level for now. I live in Illinois and there are no serious proposals out there to ban smoking statewide as far as I know. I understand some Chicago suburban communities have banned smoking but that's about it. States like California and New York (or is it on New Your City) have bans in place and all seems to be going well.

The restaurant associations seem to always come out in opposition to such proposals claiming it will hurt business. However, states like California and New York (or is it just New York City?) have smoking bans and I'm not hearing about restaurants and bars closing shop due to a lack of patronage by smokers. So I think that argument is nonsense.

An individual restaurant might be hurt (some) if it chose to unilaterally ban smoking. This would even be more true of a bar, I imagine. But having said that, I do know of a few restaurants that have bans and they seem to be doing OK. And in larger communities, I'm sure a smoke free bar would be sustainable. However, having a universal ban gives all establishments cover so no one is unfairly hurt.

As for smokers whining that their "rights" are being violated, their rights end where their smoke affects me. It gets on my clothes and hair and, of course, into my lungs. Hey, smoke 'em if you got 'em in your own space. That's where your "right" to smoke lies.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Fate, Meet Irony

I saw this at It's listed as being true at the myth-busting site.

...a 17 September 2004 editorial published in the Daily Nebraskan and entitled
"Individual Rights Buckle Under Seat Belt Laws," by Derek Kieper, a 21-year-old
senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in which the writer inveighed
against mandatory seat belt laws, opining that "Uncle Sam is not here to
regulate every facet of life no matter the consequences," and that "Democrats
and Republicans alike should stand together to stop these laws that are
incongruous with the ideals of both parties."

But then an article in the 4 January 2005 Lincoln Journal Star had this

Kieper, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died early
Tuesday morning when the Ford Explorer he was a passenger in traveled off an
icy section of Interstate 80 and rolled several times in a ditch. Kieper, who
was riding in the back seat of the Explorer, was ejected from the vehicle.

Nothing to add except "buckle up".

Four More Newts!

You godda be kiddin' me.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Newt Gingrich is taking steps toward a potential
presidential bid in 2008 with a book criticizing President Bush's policies on
Iraq and a tour of early campaign states.

That's certainly good news for Democrats. I hear Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore is thinking about it too. What a freak show. Suddenly, John Ellis doesn't look so bad.

Social Insurance

I'm reprinting here a letter Josh Marshall received and posted on his blog. I think it gets to the heart of the Social Security matter for me.
Josh -

You've mentioned Social security as insurance, previously, but I think
the point deserves more emphasis. Reducing social security benefits and
replacing (some of) the lost benefits with private investment accounts is still
gambling EVEN if the accounts earn a relatively optimistic rate of return, and
EVEN if the accounts are limited to conservative investment options. The reason
why private investment accounts are RISKY is because people don't know how long
they will live. Someone living to (say) 95 is going to do much worse with
private investments, simply because the privately invested money is going to run
out well before they die.

The scam here (on the part of those trying to sell private investment
accounts as a substitute) is that they (implicitly) are talking about what
someone who lives to the AVERAGE lifespan will be getting. But half (or so) of
retirees are going to live LONGER than average. This half will either have to
withdraw money more slowly (live less well) [and how will they be able to
predict this?] or will exhaust their private investment accounts long before
they die.

So with private accounts, those who die early end up with some (or
much) of their money going to the heirs, and those who die late end up
(potentially) in poverty. Only the hypothetical "average" person (the one who
dies at an average age, having exactly exhausted his/her private investments at
exactly the right time) is going to do as well as any "predicted" outcome for
private investment accounts.


Yes, Social Security is insurance. It's the part of my retirement (or God forbid, disability) that is guaranteed. I would like to do better than rely on just SS and that's why I have a 401k. I also have a small pension coming to me from the State of Illinois for the almost 10 years I spent working there. The State pension (a defined benefit package) and Social Security are guaranteed for life. My 401k, when cashed in, is a finite amount of money. I know I won't live forever but its good to know there is a source of income available to me for as long as I do live after retirement.

By the way, I'm not going to get into it now but I really think the trend away from defined benefit plans is a bad deal for workers.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Calling Col. Kurtz, Please Report to Iraq

Oh, this is lovely:

NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates
back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against
the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced
with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or
supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads
directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.
Shorter El Salvador Option:

"We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow.
Village after village. Army after army."
Col. Kurtz, Appocolypse Now

Friday, January 07, 2005

Can Old friends Really Ever Be Found?

I got my first home internet connection in 1998. Ever since then, I have used the nets awesome power to locate people I used to know. Sometimes I want to make contact with them and other times I'm just curious as to where they are and what they are doing. Everyone knows that Google is the easiest people finder ever invented and I have put it to good use.

On the occasions I have actually made contact with a long lost friend, co-worker or other acquaintance, I have found it initially very satisfying. Part of that is the thrill of the hunt, if you will. You know, having my efforts pay off. The other obvious part is getting to communicate with someone I thought I would never hear from again. I mean, these are people I was pretty close too, personally or professionally (sometimes both).

What happens is, there is initially an exchange of emails containing a mixture of surprise and joy at being in touch again. These emails inevitably involve a lot of catching up on what we've been doing all these intervening years. It's fun, it really is.

But then we get to a point where we're caught up and the emailing stops. Its the cyber equivalent of the awkward silence. About all that happens from that point on is an occasional email sent (almost always by me) with some item from the local newspaper about something or someone we both knew. I then get a "thanks for the cool info" response and then nothing again.

And then it sinks in; our lives really have nothing in common anymore.

I guess it all comes down to the uncomfortable realization that whatever relationship I had with this person really is in the past and I can't go back. That's the part I find hard to deal with. Maybe subconsciously, when I'm looking up these folks, I'm trying to transport myself back relive the fun times I had with these people. Some people get claustrophobic and feel confined in tight physical spaces. Sometimes I feel confined by time and want to wander. Kurt Vonnegut wrote about coming "unstuck in time" in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five. I wonder if he sometimes felt the same way I do. And for all the power of the internet it still can't transport me from the present.


Well, well, the CNN pundit screamfest Crossfire is being canceled. I'd say its about time. What was once a unique, confrontational forum for discussion of issues has degenerated into a heated spectator sport.

See, I remember when Crossfire began in 1982. I liked it then. It featured Tom Braden (playing the liberal) and Pat Buchanan (playing himself) interviewing usually one guest and gently sparing over the issue at hand. There really wasn't anything else like it, at least not a daily half hour program. This Week with David Brinkley began about this time and it featured a group of pundits hashing things out for the last quarter of the show and I think PBS may have had a weekly program like Washington Week in Review, but Crossfire was the new aggressive child of the emerging cable news world.

As the years went by, the level of political noise on the airwaves became more an more shrill, dominated by the rightwing talk shows populating the AM radio stations that became otherwise useless in the 1980s (music had completely migrated to FM). As the political discourse became more divisive, Crossfire began to turn up the conflict factor as well. Yelling past each other became the order of the day. And its still that way.

So, I say good riddance. The fewer of these things the better. Whereas it was possible to actually learn something from Crossfire in its early days, now its just a political cage match where opponents care less about informing and much, much more about zinging the other guy with demagogary.

I'd like to think that Jon Stewart's appearance on the show a few months ago where he lunched into a well deserved attack on the show and its ilk was partly responsible for its demise, but I doubt it had much to do with it. It would be nice if CNN management stopped for a moment and thought, "Hey, he's right. We are doing a disservice to the public."

The cancellation of Crossfire may actually be the start of CNN moving back into the realm of credible news programming rather than trying to be Fox News Also. Its interesting that when major news breaks (the tsunami disaster being the latest example) , CNN's ratings go up while Fox's numbers stay flat. I think this demonstrates that CNN is still seen as providing news while Fox is seen as the propaganda tool it is.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Flight of the Phoenix

I see the movie The Flight of the Phoenix is in town. I knew they were remaking the classic 1965 film but I didn't realize it was out yet. The original Flight of the Phoenix was one of my favorite movies as a kid (and I still like it). I find it hard to believe the remake will improve on the Jimmy Stewart flick about the crash of a plane in the North African desert. The new one is set in the Gobi Desert, so I guess it really isn't the same movie.

Change Social Security or the Terrorists Win

This is oh, so cute. I love it when these guys try to pull this shit. From Daily Kos:

"He cannot afford to fail. It would have repercussions for the rest of his
program, including foreign policy. We can't hand the president a defeat on his
major domestic initiative at a time of war." (Wall Street Journal, 1/6/04)

That's Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. So, ANY opposition to ANYTHING coming from the White House is treasonous. Very clever. Dumbass.

Charity Doesn't Stop at the Tsunami's Edge

Nicholas Kristof makes a good point in his NY Times column yesterday. While it is right we focus on the horrible tragedy caused by the tsunamis last week, there are ongoing slow-motion disasters claiming far more lives.

When grieving victims intrude onto our TV screens, we dig into our pockets
and provide the massive, heartwarming response that we're now displaying in
Asia; the rest of the time, we're tightwads who turn away as people die in far
greater numbers.

The 150,000 or so fatalities from the tsunami are well within the
margin of error for estimates of the number of deaths every year from malaria.
Probably two million people die annually of malaria, most of them children and
most in Africa, or maybe it's three million - we don't even know.

But the bottom line is that this month and every month, more people
will die of malaria (165,000 or more) and AIDS (240,000) than died in the
tsunamis, and almost as many will die because of diarrhea ( 140,000).

I heard a radio report on NPR yesterday that the $300 million the United States government has pledged to tsunami relief was coming from funds earmarked for other international relief. I have not seen this reported elsewhere and perhaps I misunderstood. But if this is true, we really are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Either way, it's kind of sad that we only get energized to help when presented with dramatic images. As Kristof puts it "When grieving victims intrude onto our TV screens, we dig into our pockets and provide the massive, heartwarming response that we're now displaying in Asia; the rest of the time, we're tightwads who turn away as people die in far greater numbers."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

This Was for Dramtic Effect Only

Reeled you in!

I'm really not stupid enough to give out my personal information to just anyone even if a dozen companies probably already have.

So go back now. And stop being silly.

It'll Be Green in Antarctica Before...Oh, Wait

Do penguins know how to use lawn mowers? There is no global warming la, la, la, la (hands over ears).

LATE UPDATE: Hey, the penguins could relocate to Alaska. What's that?...oh.

Curry Favor

First beer, then chocolate and now curry. All good for you. I hope we are starting to see the dam break on a cure for Alzheimer's. Thanks to ETK for the tip.

Tsunami Relief

I got this message from a friend and co-worker who is from Sri Lanka.

Most of you would have seen on tv or heard about the tragedy in the Asian sub
continent. Sri-Lanka is one of those countries that had been badly hit. To date,
about 48,000 people have been dead and 16,000 are missing. If you would like to
donate, please donate through Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) of USA ( TRO is a registered 501 ( c) 3
charitable organization in the USA and all donations are tax deductible. This
organization reaches out to the people in the northern and eastern parts of the
Sri-Lanka as its being cut off from the government aid and other national
benefits. Please feel free to send this info to anyone interested.

This is the organization I will be donating to. I encourage everyone to do the same or contribute to the relief organization of your choice. This is the worst natural disaster in my lifetime and I'll have much more to say on it later.

My friend tells me his family and friends back in Sri Lanka are all safe but his wife lost a cousin. Apparently the cousin was at the shore taking photographs when the tsunami hit.

UPDATE: The local paper (SJR) has a story on the plight of the cousin.

The Age of Paranoia

The corporate media has picked up on a recent "rash" of laser vs. aircraft incidents. That is, several pilots across the country report having had laser lights shined into their cockpits from sources on the ground. At first glance at the headlines, one imagines high-powered death rays targeting our airliners. But in fact what we are talking about are laser pointers that may or may not actually be intentionally directed at the planes.

Nevermind that, the media is anxious to find a connection between these incidents and "terrorists". I thought the whole thing smelled of fear-mongering hype from the beginning. Recently, the FBI ruled out these incidents being terrorism. But I'm sure the stories and the resulting fear from the public will continue.

Meanwhile, Richard Roeper takes on the issue in his column in today's Chicago Sun Times.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Picture Perfect

OK, I've figured out uploading pictures. This was just a test and the photo below is not an endorsement by me of the use of mutant hedgeapples. In any way. Not at all.

I Swear

I am totally sick of this wave of FCC involvement in on-air swearing and "wardrobe malfunctions". Here's the latest:

The Federal Communications Commission has received complaints about the New
Year's Eve "Tonight" show and is beginning a preliminary probe, a
spokeswoman said Tuesday. But it's likely little will come of it.

Motley Crue was performing shortly after midnight when Neil turned to
Lee and said, "Happy ----ing New Year, Tommy!"

It was after midnight! Michael Powell, please unclench your sphincter.

Iraqing My Brain for a Good Solution

Count me among those who have occasionally advocated breaking up Iraq into three ethnically distinct countries rather than try to force the various populations to get along. Iraq was, after all, an artificial creation of the western powers (Britain and France) following WWI. The territory that is now Iraq had previously been part of the Ottoman Empire which was on the losing side of the war to end all wars. Like much of the nation building in the colonial era, national borders were drawn with little consideration for ethnic and cultural realities. Certainly Iraq was one of those creations. However, over time the situation on the ground has grown a little more complex and, as Juan Cole argues, breaking-up Iraq would likely have dire consequences:

There are a million Kurds in Baghdad, a million Sunnis in the Shiite deep
south, and lots of mixed provinces (Ta'mim, Ninevah, Diyalah, Babil, Baghdad,
etc.). There is a lot of intermarriage among various Iraqi groups.

Then, how do you split up the resources? If the Sunni Arabs don't get
Kirkuk, then they will be poorer than Jordan. Don't you think they will fight
for it? The Kurds would fight to the last man for the oil-rich city of Kirkuk if
it was a matter of determining in which country it ended up.

If the Kurds got Kirkuk and the Sunni Arabs became a poor cousin to Jordan,
the Sunni Arabs would almost certainly turn to al-Qaeda in large numbers. Some
Iraqi guerrillas are already talking about hitting back at the US mainland. And,
Fallujah is not that far from Saudi Arabia, which Bin Laden wants to hit, as
well, especially at the oil. Fallujah Salafis would hook up with those in Jordan
and Gaza to establish a radical Sunni arc that would destabilize the entire

Divorced from the Sunnis, the Shiites of the south would no longer have any
counterweight to religious currents like al-Dawa, the Supreme Council for
Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Sadrists. The rump Shiite state would be
rich, with the Rumayla and other fields, and might well declare a Shiite Islamic
republic. It is being coupled with the Sunnis that mainly keeps them from going
down that road. A Shiite South Iraq might make a claim on Shiite Eastern Arabia
in Saudi Arabia, or stir up trouble there.

As always, Cole provides valuable insights not available in any US corporate media. Read him daily and learn.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Still Trying to Figure This Out

Running this blog, so far, has been pretty simple. I'm still trying to get pictures in. So if you see a picture oddly placed somewhere in the blog, that's why. I'll also be looking into a hit counter. No hurry though, I'm sure I have very few hits except from myself. To the best of my knowledge only two people even know about this.

UPDATE - Ha, I got the hit counter in.

Cartoons Come to Life

Finally, the X Presidents called to action somewhere other than on Saturday Night Live.

Bad Ideas

The future of Social Security is going to be this year’s big political fight in Washington. The Bush administration, buoyed by its great successes in Iraq, now wants to liberate the nation’s retirement safety net. Masters at creating crisis where none actually exist, dire warnings have been issued by the White House that we are all going to lose our Social Security unless something is done NOW.

It turns out the proposed solution (privatization) would likely be more expensive while striping much of the security out of Social Security. A New York Times editorial gives the whole issue a good treatment:

...President Bush and his aides asserting that a $10 trillion shortfall threatens the retirement system - and the economy itself. That $10 trillion hole is the basis of the president's claim last month that "the [Social Security] crisis is now." It's also the basis of the administration's claim that the cost of doing nothing to reform the system would be far greater than the cost of acting now.

Well, the $10 trillion figure is the closest you can get to pulling a number out of the air. Make that the ether. Starting last year, as the groundwork was being set for the emerging debate, the Social Security trustees took the liberty of projecting the system's solvency over infinity, rather than sticking to the traditional 75-year time horizon. That world-without-end assumption generates the scary $10 trillion estimate, and with it, Mr. Bush's putative rationale for dismantling Social Security in favor of a system centered on private savings accounts. The American Academy of Actuaries, the profession's premier trade association, objected to the change. In a letter to the trustees, the actuaries wrote that infinite projections provide "little if any useful information about the program's long-range finances and indeed are likely tomislead any [nonexpert] into believing that the program is in far worse financial condition than is actually indicated."

As it often does with dissenting professional opinion, the administration is ignoring the actuaries. But that doesn't alter the facts or common sense. If the $10 trillion
figure is essentially bogus, so is the claim that Social Security is in crisis. The assertion that doing nothing would be costlier than enacting a privatization plan also turns out to be wrong, by the estimates of Congress's own budget agency.

Over a 75-year time frame, Social Security's shortfall is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at $2 trillion and by the Social Security trustees at $3.7 trillion, a manageable sliver of the economy in each case. If the shortfall is on the low side, Social Security will be in the black until 2052, when it will be able to pay out 80 percent of the promised benefits. If it is on the high side, the system will pay full benefits until 2042, when it will cover 70 percent.


…the administration wants workers to divert some of the payroll taxes that currently pay for Social Security into private investment accounts, in exchange for a much-reduced government benefit. To replace the taxes it would otherwise have collected - money it needs to pay benefits to current and near retirees - the government would borrow an estimated $2 trillion over the next 10 years or so and even more thereafter.

In effect, the administration's plan would get rid of the financial burden of Social Security by getting rid of Social Security. The plan shifts the financial risk of growing old onto each individual and off of the government - where it is dispersed among a very large population, as with any sensible insurance policy. In a privatized system, you may do fine, but your fellow retirees may not, or vice versa.

In any event, doing well under privatization is relative. Congress's budget agency analyzed the privatized plan that is widely regarded as the template for future legislation and found that total retirement benefits - including payouts from the private account plus the government subsidy - would be less than under the present
system. The amount available from the privatized system was less even after midcentury, when the current system is projected to come up short.
Go read the rest.

John Ellis

Florida governor Jeb Bush’s name is really John Ellis Bush? I didn’t know that. I guess it wouldn’t make sense for the patrician Bush family to name one of their children “Jeb”. It’s interesting how this generation of Bush politicians manages to convince everyone they are just down-home good ol’ boys and not from rich, powerful, Northeastern lineage. G.W. bought a “ranch” to show just how Texan he really is even though he has lived his entire life in urban settings. Going by the name Jeb I guess conveys a similar folksiness.

There is a lot of speculation John Ellis “Jeb” may be the next Republican nominee for president The field seems wide open right now. No one thinks Cheney is going to go for it. At some point is the nation going to tire of Bushes in (or near) the White House? Think about it, by 2008, a Bush will have been president or vice president for 20 of the last 28 years. Will the John Ellis campaign capitalize on this and adopt the chant of “20 more Years”.

Thanks to T11H reader JRB for the tip.

Math is Hard

Are brains bad for women looking for a mate? A new study says yes.

Werld Wor Too

Apparently, memorial makers aren’t the best spellers. I think this has more to do with historical and geographical ignorance than anything. Some of these errors, if they are that, are understandable given traditional and non-traditional spellings actually exist. But “Berma”? And I’ve never seen Arnhem ever spelled any other way. Maybe Springfield can market this as a bad spellers memorial as well. As a recovering bad speller I think such a memorial is long over due.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Now I'm a Blogger

There aren’t many things in life you can make so with just a few keystrokes, but becoming a blogger happens to be one of them. And since it’s so easy, here I am.

I’ve been reading blogs for awhile now, mostly political ones. I like the whole concept. There are no rules governing topics or their length. A blogger isn’t required to fill a certain space at a certain time and they may post as often or as infrequently as they desire. Now, for a blog to gather a following it has to have frequent and insightful updates, but I’m not going for a wide audience. So, I’ll be posting when I want to and never more.

As for the name, The Eleventh Hour, I made it up on the spot. See, I was curious about how complicated it was to set up a blog. I Googled “how to set up a blog” or something and clicked the first link which was to the Blogger (blogspot) site that now host this blog. I went through the steps and before I knew it was asking me what I wanted to call the blog. Well, it was shortly before 11:00 pm and that’s when I most often get things done I’ve otherwise put off the rest of the day. So, The Eleventh Hour came to mind. Brilliant.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time exchanging ideas and information with friends via email and I think this may be the place I put some of that writing from now on. It will provide a central location for whatever is crossing my mind at a given moment. Up until now, I have been amused and occasionally impressed when I’ve come across old email exchanges. Here I can better track that kind of thing and, most importantly, provide a forum for what EVERYONE is entitled to – my opinion.